Episode 145 | December 4, 2018

Influencing Memory And Effective Communication with Carmen Simon

A Personal Note from Orion

Our memories are one of the most powerful elements that can dictate our lives. So powerful in fact, that big business spends lots of time and money studying the way memory works in order to become more memorable to customers. As an entrepreneur or business owner, you want potential leads to remember you, and you don’t want your current customers to forget you.

But in this day and age, where technology has created shorter and shorter attention spans in minds, being memorable has become more difficult. You have to stand out from the crowd, and you have to do it in a way that captures attention fast, and leaves enough of an impact that people remember.

There is an exact science to all this, one that is extremely fascinating. That’s why I am especially excited about my guest today, Carmen Simon, a cognitive neuroscientist who has consulted with major companies like AT&T and Google. Our conversation today could have easily spanned several hours, and you’re bound to learn so much about the intricate science of our minds and what we pay attention to…so tune in!

About Today’s Show

You’re in for a treat because my guest is extraordinary. I love her and love everything she talked about. When I think about a neuroscientist, I think about somebody who is a nerd and sits in a lab, whatever interesting imagery comes to mind. She’s got the smarts and the fire. She is a wonderful, fun human being that is super wise and is going to teach you how to improve your brain and your memory. Mostly what she’s focusing on is how you can stand out, how you can enter a conversation and have people remember you, how you can do a presentation and have people remember you and retain what you told them. This is the key to success because when you are top of mind, people want to work with you, people want to engage with you. How do you stay top of mind? How do you grab someone’s attention?

In the past, I don’t know why maybe it’s my personality, I used to draw attention regardless of what I did. My friends in high school, they could sneak in late and nobody noticed but as soon as I do it until this day, everybody notices it. I’m an attention magnet somehow and in the past, I try to dim it. Sometimes I still do, but the more I talk to more interesting smart people, successful high achievers and all those freaking unbelievable experts that are here, the more I get that getting attention is not necessarily a bad thing. You want to channel it to do good in the world. You want to channel it to a place where it influences your success and the success of the people that are around you and that are working with you. We’re going to learn more about that. Do you want to learn how to be more magnetizing and how to influence people for good and be a force for good?

Carmen Simon is a cognitive neuroscientist, author and Founder of Memzy, a company that uses brain science to help corporation create memorable messages. Carmen consults with major corporations on human memory and on decision-making processes and has developed a science-based method that helps people become memorable and drive a desired action. She’s worked with AT&T, Google, Cisco, HP, McDonald’s and so many more amazing brands. She’s also a guest lecturer at Stanford University and speaks frequently on the importance of using brain science to craft communication. She is fantabulous. Also, I would love to hear from you if you are enjoying this. If you feel like it is valuable, then go ahead and give me a five-star review and tell me why you liked it. If you don’t like it, don’t tell anyone. Just kidding. Being a podcaster, it’s sometimes lonely on the other side. I want to hear and be engaged with you. If this knowledge that I bring to you contribute to your life, inspires you and something that you love and fills your heart with joy, then I would be so grateful to hear from you and connect with you.

Carmen, welcome to Stellar Life Podcast.

Hello and welcome, everyone.

Why don’t you share a little bit about yourself?

I am a cognitive neuroscientist, which is a fancy way of saying I studied the brain from the angle of how we pay attention, we tend to remember most often not and we tend to decide on what we remember and most often not. It’s interesting these days to look at concepts such as attention, memory, decision making because we seem to have less and less of these things. Are you noticing the same thing?

I totally notice the same thing. When I grew up, I was a nerd and I used to read books like a book a week. I used to read a book through one weekend and now it’s hard to concentrate. It’s harder to focus.

It’s hard to focus especially as we age and as the world is getting more complex. I’m fascinated when I see people who exude extreme amount of focus and attention. For instance, I was reading about David Blaine, the magician. He performs this endurance artistry type of tasks like he would place himself in a six-ton ice cube in Times Square for 63 hours to test his endurance. Imagine how much focus you have to have in order to stay in there for that long.

I also think that in that case, you go into a state of flow where when the top athletes do something crazy and scary, they get flow triggers. When you’re in high adrenaline or something dangerous happens, I don’t know the science behind how it happens but people go into flow states where the world is slowing down and they’re hyper-focused. Hours can go by without them even noticing.

He wishes because as you are in that unusual state and some of your biological functions are now starting to take over, that state of flow or sometimes the world seems to go by faster than it does, it slows down. I’ve had an interview where he was close to his cutoff time and he has to make a big reveal where the media is involved. That big reveal was going to be around [8:00] that evening and it’s [2:00] PM. He’s losing it so he’s asking the tourists that passing by what time is it because by now he can communicate with people from the outside. The person says it’s [2:00] and then he’s trying to hold his wits about it because now physiologically, he’s in a lot of hardship. Maybe four hours went by and he’s now closer and closer to the finish line and he asks again, “What time is it now?” The person says, “It’s [2:10].” Then you know you’re in real trouble. A lot of people feel like that perhaps in business presentations, which is our context where we operate and we apply these brain science principles to help create memorable content. Sometimes I’m noticing that as we’re witnessing a lot of business content in presentations, if something is not engaging, time slows down.

Attention is a precursor to memory. If you manage to get somebody's attention, you're more likely to help them create a memory trace. Click To Tweet

It seems like according to what you are teaching, in order for us to be memorable, we need to reinvent ourselves over and over again and it sounds exhausting.

It does sound exhausting especially if you want to become memorable through novelty. If that’s one of the variables that you want to use to impact memory, then it can turn into a lot of hardship for yourself because you have to constantly learn things. The good news is that novelty is not the only variable that you can use to impact somebody else’s memory. There are many others so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

You have fifteen of those that you talk about. What are some of those variables that can help us stay in somebody else’s memory?

There are quite a few and let’s start with some that are a little bit easier. Since you mentioned that novelty put so much pressure on ourselves sometimes, let’s look at some other ways that feel a little bit easier to adopt. Let’s consider that attention as a precursor to memory. If you manage to get somebody’s attention, you’re more likely to help them create a memory trace. Then the question is how do we attract attention to something naturally without your brain working too hard, without their brain working too hard? One such technique is considering existing mental models that your audience’s brains already have. Whenever people experience their reality, they start forming scripts or templates through which you process that reality. Let’s say that whenever you go to the airport, you have a mental model of how things operate there. When you go to a bookstore, you know what’s happening or when you go to the grocery store, you have a script in a mental model for that. Do you go to the grocery store and people switch things on you?

I did. I bought cat food and they stopped selling one of the brands. I was looking for it and I was like, “What’s going on?” I felt so lost.

That script is now a little bit tampered with and you have now to think a little bit harder. What does this mean to us in the sense of helping other people create memories? If attention paves the way to memory, one of the ways that we pay attention naturally to is to think we already know. Whenever you show the brain something that it already has experienced, it has an expanded attention for that segment or for that element for us to see. Did you ever buy a car and suddenly everybody on the highway drives the same car that you just bought? It’s not that all of a sudden, there are more of those cars on the road but your attention has already expanded for that which you already know. Whenever you’re approaching someone and if you’re talking to them about whatever topic, the more they already know about that topic, the easier it is to get their attention because you can already rely that they know where to look. For example, give me some topics that you are excited about and you feel you know a lot about.


Tell me what is it about biohacking that is getting your attention and your energy?

If you manage to get somebody’s attention, you’re more likely to help them create a memory trace.


I’m all about unleashing my inner superhero, which is what I teach too. Finding how to become my best self and through cutting-edge technologies, science and knowledge, we can improve our lifespan and our health. I’m fascinated by that. Plus every other day, there is something new and exciting and new technology that I love to experiment with that. I love to see how this affects my body and my mind.

Let’s imagine that I had a software company and I wanted to sell you this software application that perhaps helped you analyze big data. Everybody’s into big data these days and predictive analytics. If I knew that you were already familiar with these topics around biohacking, I could say, “Imagine using this application and when you do, you can unleash your superhero.” The minute that I link into something that you already know and have extended attention for, then I have a much better foundation to start building memory traces because we remember a lot better that which we already know.

Through metaphors or something that people already know.

Even if it’s a metaphor, make sure that it’s a metaphor that links into somebody’s existing reality and habits. Sometimes what I’m noticing in business is people may use some metaphors but they’re just so far removed from our reality that it’s hard to relate to those. I’m sure that you’ve seen those business content types that might use a mountaineering metaphor or a space shuttle type of metaphor. Those may make sense at the moment but it’s very hard to remember later on because they’re not part of people’s reality. I don’t know that many people who climb up on very high mountains and bring their laptops there, which is what you might see in some metaphors or people who go out in space, and yet tend to use those metaphors way too often.

What was your personal fascination with how to be memorable?

I started this journey by being completely humbled by how much we forget. We take our own existence as an example. I remember watching that movie, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. The entire trilogy had a lot of darkness behind it. I remember reading the book and then watching the Swedish version of the movie. If you want darkness, watch the Swedish version. There is a scene where the main character who is also equally dark and edgy had bought a twenty-room apartment in Stockholm with some illicit money. She’s sitting on the windowsill and looking at the sunset. She’s watching a beautiful vista from that apartment. For some reason, that scene connected with me so much that I thought, “I must see what she saw.”

The brain enjoys surprises because the difference between what we expect and what happens in reality is how the brain learns. Click To Tweet

I booked a trip from San Francisco to Stockholm, flew over there and I got fascinated with all sorts of sites, museums, photography galleries, ice bars and canals. Five days into the trip as I was in the taxi to return to the airport to return to San Francisco, I was thinking, “There is something else that I came here to see.” I had totally forgotten my main reason for the trip when my attention got attracted by everything else. You can do a tour. There is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tour that you can join and you can see what she saw, which was my intention. It’s very sad if we forget our own content. Imagine how much worse it is when you try to stay on somebody else’s memory and how much more those people forget what you had to say.

How do you become memorable? Do you have to wear dress differently? Do you have to talk differently? What do you have to do so people will remember you?

We looked at a few components. We mentioned novelty but at some point, we agree that sometimes that may be difficult. We mentioned linking your content and whatever you want to say into somebody else’s existing mental model. People remember you by association. Look at some other ones. If you mentioned the type of dress, we can include that into another variable, which is the element of surprise. The element of surprise helps with creating memories because as you get acquainted with the reality around you and you form those mental models and all about the grocery stores and the airports, you start now building expectations. When you go to the airport you know what to expect. The brain enjoys expectations because he doesn’t have to process every single situation as if it was new. Familiarity and building expectations enable us to conserve a lot of mental energy but also the brain enjoys forming expectations because it knows what happens next.

The brain is constantly on fast forward. It wants to be in the next moment so that we can predict where to go and where to move next. Expectations have lots of advantages for the brain. That’s why we form them constantly. That’s how stereotypes are born. When you offer the brain the element of the surprise, that means you’re breaking an expectation. Surprise from a biological perspective is always bad for the brain because surprise is nothing but a prediction error. Whenever you’re showing an element of surprise that means the brain has temporarily failed to predict what would happen next. However, the brain enjoys surprises because the difference between what we expected to happen and what happens in reality is how the brain learns. For example, if we’re expecting for somebody to be wearing pants and a jacket and he shows up in a dress, you’re twisting some expectations. Reflecting on your content and on ways to become memorable, wonder at what points do you offer your audiences enough familiarity and then you have the courage to twist it over slightly.

As a concept, it sounds good but how do you introduce familiarity and surprise at the same time?

Imagine that you’re looking at someone’s content or reality and you are wondering, “What is something that they expect already? What’s familiar to them?” Start from a place of familiarity and then wonder, “Can we twist it to just in a slight way?” and I keep insisting on this phrase in a slight way because too much familiarity that you give to the brain and you’re boring. Too much surprise that you’re giving to the brain and you’re weird. You have to find the proper ratio. For instance, we were creating a poster for one of our clients and we have a good opportunity to create a poster about our company, which is Memzy. We create these types of content and workshops that revolve around attention, memory and decision making. This person has agreed to place our poster in her office, which is a great position to be. If we claim to teach other people how to be memorable, we’d better be memorable.

We are finishing this poster so the tagline for the poster is, “Memory moves the world.” I’m advocating that because your audience will not make decisions in your favor unless they remember you in some way. The only move in your favor along your cause if there is a memory. “Memory moves the world” is one of our taglines and the poster shows this Volkswagen bus and a giraffe is driving this bus down that highway and there is a sub-tagline that says, “Find your memory lane.” The reason we’re breaking some surprises is that you have the cute little bus but the driver is not a human being, it’s a giraffe. He’s going down the road and you can see that it’s a very beautiful nice space. “Find your memory lane,” is a bit more intriguing as a tagline. Start from a place of familiarity such as seeing a car down the road and then switch the familiarity a little bit just like what we’re doing with the giraffe that now becomes a driver.

Many people aspire to be memorable, but very few know with certainty what they want to be memorable for.


When you think about taglines or helping companies, what’s your thought process in doing that?

I’m glad you asked about that because as you embark on building somebody’s memory lane, the very first step in that process is to ask, “What do you want to be memorable for?” Many people aspire in being memorable but very few know with certainty what they want to be memorable for. As we work with a lot of business clients, we notice that one of the biggest culprits on the way to becoming memorable is clarifying a message you want to leave on somebody else’s brain. I used to call it the 10% message simply because what we’re noticing is that after 48 hours, people will forget about 90% of what you share with them.

We’ve noticed that that percentage is unrealistic in the sense that it’s too large. My specialty is EEG research. What I mean by EEG is electroencephalogram, which means the writing of the brain waves as you expose your audience’s brains to stimulation. When neurons communicate with each other, they create electricity. Through technology such as EEG headsets, which are electrodes that we place on somebody’s scalp, we can capture the brain waves and are generated when we expose the brain to let’s say a business presentation, an image, some words that somebody is saying about their message. As we monitor those brainwaves in real time, we then also notice what the brain is looking at in real time. Later on, we correlate it with what that person remembers. What we’re noticing is that 10% is unrealistic. After about 48 hours, we’re lucky if people remember 1% of what we’ve shared.

Do you find that there is a difference between the way the older generations or Millennials remember?

I enjoy the question about demographics because it is possible to make a case that people will remember differently depending on their age bracket, depending on their gender, depending on their culture. It is possible to study those dimensions. However, we also know the brain, in general, hasn’t changed much in the past 40,000 years so there are some variables that will apply no matter what the demographics of your audience. Imagine we are talking about the element of novelty or mental models or a surprise. Any of those, you can use regardless if you’re talking to a Millennial from California or if you are talking to a more mature person from China.

You don’t see the brain changing due to all the influences technologies and everything that’s going on social media. I would assume that somebody who grew up with an iPhone has a different way to remember and different attention than somebody who grew up without it.

We can answer the question in a different way. It’s not so much that their brain has changed, it’s that their mental models have changed. Somebody who might have a mental model for the phone would understand and remember a little bit better than somebody who has never seen one or operated one very frequently. The only observation that we make in the sense of extreme changes lately and these two go beyond age, gender and culture is our threshold for stimulation. It’s not that because the brain hasn’t changed much in the past 3,000 years, we can’t even claim that our attention span is shorter, which is a myth. You have heard that statement uttered many times that our attention span is shorter. Some people say we have the attention span of a goldfish, which is about eight seconds. That’s simply not true. The way that you can attest for that is simply to do some personal observation because many people that you know would have probably binge-watched a show and watched many episodes at a time over a weekend. Are you watching any kinds of shows right now?

Your audience will not make decisions in your favor unless they remember you in some way. Click To Tweet

No. I’m staying away because if I start, I can’t stop.

It’s good that we can learn from you to have some methods to protect yourself from yourself. I’m sure that you have friends who may have watched Breaking Bad for instance in a span of a few days instead of over the span of a few seasons and wait as the show unfolds. That’s how we know that the brain is capable of sustaining attention for a prolonged amount of time. However, what we’re noticing is that our threshold for stimulation is now smaller in the sense of if you’re not stimulated frequently, then you look elsewhere. That’s what starts creating this method that we have a short attention span. We just crave more and more stimulation and when you are doing so, then you are inherently switching your attention from one thing to another to stay stimulated.

In one of your talks where you talked about the way they cut movies where in the past it was ten seconds for a frame and now it’s 2.4 seconds per frame or something like that.

It’s gotten crazy. For some of these current movies, the average shot length is so brief that in some scenes sometimes you have no idea what just took place. You know that something happened, you might unnecessarily know what happened. Imagine if we know that the brain is so getting used to these types of simulation, they get used to that in their personal lives. If you are a businessperson and you want to attract someone’s attention and sustain for prolonged amount of time but you don’t vary the stimulation that you offer, then it’s almost like an invitation to multitask.

It worries me a little bit when I think about it when I look at the TV series from the ‘80s and now, it’s like everything is so much more sensational like sex, violence, reality TV show. Everything is so extreme. I don’t know what’s going to happen in a decade or two decades. How much more sensational not in a good way can they get? I’m worried about the next generation.

Luckily though the brain habituates and then the opposite is going to attract attention. If you let some of these trends settle and as long as you don’t abuse our brains to an unhealthy state any time and then after a period of habituation offer something that twists the stimulus, then we can regain that attention. I’ll give you an example. The phrase slow and TV usually don’t go together. The TV, we’ve just talked about how we’re after this trend of making everything fast. In Norway, a TV producer created a show where for eight hours, all he displayed was this journey of a train between two cities in Norway and it could not be any duller, yet a lot of people tune in to watch this journey on this train between these cities and imagine these caves. It’s very beautiful stylistically speaking.

Because it was such a novelty, a departure from what we’re knowing TV to be, people stage to an end to the point where this one person having watched the entire eight hours felt like at the end of it, he wanted to get up of his chair and reach for the overhead bend to take his bag down. This TV producer started asking, “How else can I push it? How about watching some logs burning in a fireplace for ten hours or so? How about knitting?” If you think that watching somebody knit for thirteen hours is boring, we can rethink that because people tune in to even watch that. Things are not as sad as they appear to be because brain habituates very fast. As long as you’re smart enough to return to the opposite stimulus, then we can keep going in the right direction.

Is there a benefit to forgetting and not remembering?

It was one of those famous writers, perhaps Mark Twain who said, “The secret to a good life is good digestion and poor memory.” Yes, there are so many benefits and I’m glad that you asked that because imagine if people remembered everything that you said and did, life would be very sad. You couldn’t be married, you couldn’t have customers, you would be in a lot of trouble. It’s nice that the brain forgets where business is concerned. However, it’s nice to at least being charged with that 1% that people tend to take away and not leave it to chance.

“The secret to a good life is good digestion and poor memory.” – Mark Twain


I don’t know what it is, but I cannot remember my childhood. Maybe a few memories here and there but I can’t remember it. It was pretty dramatic. I went through a lot but what’s the benefit of it and how can I access it?

It might be a blessing that you don’t remember some of those segments.

Some segments were bad but I did 40 Years of Zen, which is a neurofeedback program from Dave Asprey where for a whole week, I took smart drugs and was connected to EG and doing neurofeedback. It was a whole awesome week in the countryside of Seattle. When I did the neurofeedback, I remembered parts of my childhood that were beautiful that I never remembered before. What would be your suggestions to access more of that?

The first question to ask is do you really want to access it? As long as you’re willing to go there, then that may have other techniques. When it comes to childhood, we have to recognize memories are not starting to get formed until much later on. It’s such a misnomer when you hear people say, “I remember I was two years old and I did this that and the other.” That’s close to impossible to have such a strong memory of those times because physiologically speaking, some of your brain regions that are capable of storing your long-term memories are not fully developed just yet and in many associations are not formed just yet. Those take quite a few years to form. I was even reading something about the person saying, “I was in the womb and I remember X, Y, Z.” That’s why false memory research is so powerful because when people don’t remember because they wouldn’t have been capable of remembering, now you can go back and plant all sorts of memories and they will feel like they happened even though they didn’t. As you want to access more, have you considered some hypnotism like therapy?

Yes, I’ve done hypnotherapy sessions.

It sounds like you’re in the right track, but you mentioned Zen. For anyone out there whether they’re using this for business purposes or personal purposes, one of the ways to access anything inside your brain is through self-awareness. Often, the reason we walk around like zombies and we don’t know what’s going on is that we don’t stop moments and realize what’s happening. Self-awareness sounds easy in theory but it’s a little bit harder to implement. I’m sure through your practices that you were mentioning, you’re very much of good knowledge of this. Self-awareness is difficult because you’re asking the brain to be in the present. From an evolutionary perspective, there’s very little value in the present. I know that is a strong statement but a brain that survives is a brain that’s constantly in the future so that it knows where to go next. How do we know where to go next? By going into the past and retrieving memories that have served us well. Right here, right now, this very moment, there’s very little value. If we stop to think, we can find a lot of value in the present. The reason that you’re asking the brain to go against is default, that’s why it’s so hard for people to meditate

I never heard that like that. I didn’t know that we are wired for the future in the past.

By default, going into the future and the way to predict the future is to see what have I been through and what are the mental models that have served me well? Let’s go there first because in our journey through life, the only reason we have a brain is so we can physically move. How does the brain know where to go? It looks and it retrieves memories from the past. On that journey of helping us move, the brain consumes a lot of our energy. Any time it finds an occasion to conserve it, it would take it, which is so much easier to go back and retrieve things that you know that have served you well in the past. That’s why we are such habitual beings and we indulge our habits simply because we can conserve a lot of energy that way.

Do you believe in reincarnation?

If this is an aspirational question, then yes, why not? Let’s consider ourselves as being pure balls of energy. If we manifest that energy in a physical body right now, who is not to say that you can take this energy elsewhere once the current body no longer serves you?

That means that people can remember being in the womb.

I don’t know that you can put it into words. When it comes to memory, there are different types. We don’t just have one memory system. We have multiple memory systems. Some memories you can put into words and those are our explicit memories. Some memories cannot be put into words and those are our implicit memories. Things like skill learning and things like priming brain and your emotions and even some of the movements that you make with your body that are so instinctual like for instance if a pen falls from your desk, you know exactly how to bend and pick it up. That’s a different memory system. Do you remember seeing that movie, Memento?

I never saw it.

You may have heard of it and perhaps some of our audience may have heard of that as well. The person in the movie only has about a fifteen-minute memory stand. Advantages and disadvantages of that. Usually, that condition can happen after an accident or a stroke or you cannot form any new memories. If he came to our office and we started shaking his hand and every time we shook his hand, we would have a thumbtack. Let’s say we would hurt his hand after a while, he would refuse to shake our hands. Just because he can’t form anymore new explicit memories, doesn’t mean that we can’t still impact or access some other kinds of memories that he still has.

Is it like the memories in the energetic body?

You have a lot of memories that cannot be placed into words. Imagine you were riding a bicycle. If somebody were to ask you, “Tell me exactly how you’re riding a bike,” by the time you start explaining all of those things you probably fall off the bike.

I want to talk about the topic in your book, Impossible to Ignore. I read the title of your book and I probably read it about 100 times.

I was on a flight and I was observing the person in front of me. She asked the flight attendant to get him a club soda and she acknowledged the request. She took two steps, came back and said, “What was it that you wanted to drink?” There was a two-second time span that totally escaped her mind.

How do you, in your personal life, influence others to remember you?

Let’s add to our inventory of variables. We mentioned novelty, mental models so linking into what people already know. We mentioned the element of surprise and this notion of controlling your 1% in the sense of being very clear what you want people to remember. Let’s link into this a little bit more because how do you then control your 1%? There is no secret about memory. Repetition is the mother of memory. If you have the courage or repetition, you’re more likely to help others build memory traces. Unfortunately as adults, I’m noticing that we have started to develop this fear around repetition almost like the way that kids are afraid of darkness. We are afraid of repeating ourselves. I suspect that often, it’s because we feel that repetition will be hurting our ego in some way like, “Don’t say the same thing twice because people might think you’re an idiot. They might think that you forgot your own message and now you’re saying this again and again.” You might come across as remedial and nagging.

To a certain degree, that’s true. There is a very fine line between repetition and coming across as annoying. One way to rescue yourself from that is to make sure that whenever you’re repeating something you immediately link that to a reward that the brain is going to get. For example, if I wanted to become memorable for someone else, I would clarify my message. Let’s say that I want to convince my husband to travel with me to Singapore. This is our reality right now because from San Francisco to Singapore, the flight is not an easy one. It’s a seventeen-hour flight. My husband is a pilot, so to convince a pilot in his spare time to spend yet more time on an airplane is not an easy proposition. If I simply keep repeating the phrase, “Let’s go to Singapore, let’s go to Singapore, let’s go to Singapore,” after a while that phrase gets very old and memorable in a negative way. By linking it to a reward that I think he’s confident, in his spare time, he enjoys woodworking. Should I find some areas in Singapore that would be to his hobby, each time that I repeat, I link into something that feeds his brain. I have more chances to become memorable in a way that serves his brain not just mine.

When it comes to your brand or marketing message, how do you repeat it again and again in a way that will satisfy your audience and they will enjoy the consistency of your message but won’t get bored?

You said the right word, consistency. Also the right word, which is boredom. What point do you realize that the repetition has been worn out? I’m enjoying the GEICO commercials because they find one message that they feel works well with their messaging. They have a lot of variations around that message to account for boredom but the main message does not change. That’s something that I’m hoping all can ponder. Can you have something that always stays true? That does justice to your brand. It’s what you do. That’s what the phrase that we hear repeated from GEICO frequently. They fill in the blank before they say, “This is what you do.” For as long as people will check their cell phones at movie theaters, do you remember how they appeal to that kind of reality? The message does not change. They just have variations around the same theme all the time. Do you remember that older brand that even a caveman could do it? The template was just so flexible enough that you can have many variations of that theme, but that message never changed. Can you reflect on something that serves your brand well? One of our taglines is, “Memory moves the world.” We can show various themes around that, but that message always stays the same. Always have a combination of consistency like you’re saying with some slight variations around that same theme.

We don’t have a shorter attention span. We just crave more and more stimulation. Click To Tweet

How important is a tagline? For the life of me, I cannot find a tagline for my business because it keeps changing like, “This one sounds good. This one sounds way better. This one sounds better to me, but my husband doesn’t like it.” How do you find the tagline that will be so specific to your brand and your message?

There’s a template that sometimes we use in some of our brain science workshops. To find a tagline, that means the exercise is to find the essence of what you’re all about. If we consider this template, it goes something like this, “Nothing in,” then you fill in the blank with your field, “makes sense except in the light of,” and then you fill in the blank with your essence. For instance, if I were to fill up the template with something in my personal life, I enjoy playing tennis so I say, “Nothing in the game of tennis makes sense except in the light of my serve.” If I can control that one shot, which is the only shot in tennis that you have control over, that means everything else would fall into place where my tennis game is concerned. If I were to take the same template and fill it out my business for me, it would be nothing in the business communication makes sense except in the light of influencing somebody’s memory. That, to me, is the essence that makes everything else that I do worthwhile. Given this template, how would you fill it out for yourself? “Nothing in,” then fill in the blank where your field, “makes sense except in light of,” and that’s your essence.

That will be my homework. How do you create a tagline for that?

You create the tagline around the very last part, which was an essential part of your message. If I say influencing memory was the essence of my template, that’s what makes business communication worthwhile. Then I can start playing with words around that essential part. The reason why people have trouble with their tagline is that they don’t have the essence of the message to begin with. It is effortful but once you get there, it will be that much more satisfying.

For me, my ego gets involved where I’m like, “This is never good enough. It’s never going to be cool enough.” Even if it’s the essence, it is still not as perfect enough but it is something that I need to deal with.

We can zoom a little bit more, so once you find the essence, then look for words that somebody’s brain can bring forward easily. The reason I’m saying this is because sometimes people have the clarity of their essence. Let’s say that you catered that step one. Clarify your message is that the essence and the answer is yes, but then they come up with some words that other people find difficult to activate. For instance, I was working with a client and I was asking them, “What’s your main message? What should people remember?” They said, “We want clients to remember that our technology is modularly versatile.” Not only do we not understand the meaning, but it’s also very hard to even pronounce those words easily.

That’s why if you want to zoom in a little bit further and find out words that sound cool, quite often words that sound cool are so easy to bring to mind and easy to pronounce. There’s a guy who wrote a book in defense of food and to that, he has those three supporting messages. He says, “Eat food and not too much mostly plants.” When you say those words, they’re so easy to bring to mind. They have this comment of ease. As you do your taglines, start saying it and say it again. Say it to other people and see how easy they find it to repeat because repetition is one of the variable for memory. Having something repeatable is a great characteristic to have once you find the essence of your message.

One of the ways to assess anything inside your brain is through self-awareness.


The tagline will be something you can teach to a five-year-old in two minutes or less.

Words are fascinating. Anytime you share words with somebody else’s brain, you have the possibility to impact their neurochemistry. It’s good to put in that effort ahead of time because once you find the right words, the rest becomes a lot easier.

For me, I’m going to focus on public speaking. I had a speaker training in the past and I won an award for best storyteller. I’m like, “This year, I’m going to take my message and I’m going to share it with the world.” I was fascinated by your whole take on influence. My question is how can I get my audience to secrete more dopamine?

We can share what dopamine does for the brain. We used to believe that dopamine was linked to something that you liked and you craved. What is something that you like and you crave constantly?


Perhaps somebody else might crave chips or alcohol. Whenever we experience something pleasurable such as eating chocolate or drinking a little martini, there’s dopamine that gets released in our brain and things are falling into place. It feels like, “Life is worthwhile,” and you’re in a very good state of mind. The neuro finding is that you don’t have to have dopamine in your brain in order to like chocolate. You have to have dopamine in your brain in order to go get it. There’s this correlation between having enough dose of dopamine in your brain and having the drive to act on your intention. The question then becomes how do we get our own audiences to have more of that chemical being released in their brains so that they can act in our favor?

One aspect we already covered, which is this concept of three words. The minute that you clarify a reward for somebody else’s brain, they’re more likely to act in your favor simply because dopamine is related to the rewards that you receive out of engaging in some stimulation. That’s why I’m working on identifying those woodworking shops and workshops, so I can give my husband maybe the seventeen-hour journey with me. Then another variable in getting more of that chemical in that somebody else’s brain is creating enough anticipation. If we were to apply it to my Singapore trip, I would have to every so often remind him about all of these rewards that he’s going to experience and enjoy once he gets there. Sometimes the planning of a trip is even more exciting than the trip itself. That’s because anticipation gets more of that chemical in our brains.

You have more chances for people to act in your favor when you influence their memory. Click To Tweet

Another segment or element that you can use in your communication is this notion of uncertainty. It’s intriguing to study that because sometimes we feel that we should clarify everything for our audience just to make everything very obvious, make everything very certain. To a degree, that’s true because the brain doesn’t like surprises but surprises is how we learn. Don’t feel like you have to make everything so obvious. Allow somebody else to discover a few things for themselves or give them some alternatives. If I were to try to persuade my husband to join me in my trip even though it’s a long one, as I mention these rewards and as I create anticipation, I may finish my pitch with something in the lines of, “Who knows what else you might find that will also keep you satisfied?”

You want to raise curiosity and you want to create open loops. That all sounds really good. This can be a whole new episode just talking about this topic because I have so many questions to ask you. You are a fascinating human being. I feel I’m going to ask you about anything and you’ll have this brilliant answer.

It takes one to recognize and I appreciate all the questions. I’m sure that our audience is grateful because you probably voiced many of the questions that you may have had.

What are your three top tips to living a stellar life and where can people find you?

Let’s consider the tips because so far, we’re looking at influencing people’s memory and when you do, you have more chances that they will act in your favor. Let’s list some of the variables that we covered. We talked about novelty, linking your content to somebody’s existing mental models. Don’t feel that you have to start from something new all the time. We mentioned the element of surprise, clarifying your 1% because people do not remember all that much. Know what you want to be memorable for. We also mentioned the notion of repetition and making sure that you associate that with the reward because after a while repetition can become annoying. Creating enough anticipation so that we have more of that dopamine in our brains and sometimes allowing the brain to discover something for itself and not having something so obvious. We also mentioned reusing words that have enough cognitive ease so that the brain can activate them frequently.

We are such habitual beings and we indulge our habits simply because we can conserve a lot of energy that way.


I like what you said about clarifying your message because I did a three-hour workshop and my mom was there. In the end, I was like, “What did you learn?” She was like, “I’m a superhero.”

You have an intention and then you ask somebody, “What do you remember?” and they tell you exactly what you want them to remember. Then you can go to bed and think, “Yes, that was a day well spent.”

Where can people find you and take your workshops, learn from you, buy your books, love you, connect with you?

We all remember us for all the great things. If they go to Memzy.com, you can read a lot more about the brain science workshops that we host and the way that we recreate people’s content using brain science principles. It will be great to become part of their memory in the near future.

Carmen, thank you so much. It was wonderful having you on the show.

Thank you, everyone. I hope that you will be on people’s memory for a long time because when you are, then you live longer.



Your Checklist of Actions to Take

✓ Let go of the preconceived notion that in order to be memorable, you have to constantly reinvent yourself. Carmen says there are many variables that you can use to impact somebody else’s memory.
✓ Grab somebody’s attention by utilizing existing mental models to create a memory trace. The more your audience know about the topic, the easier it is to get their attention.
✓ Start from a place of familiarity when intending to be memorable but find ways to slightly add an element of surprise.
✓ Truthfully ask yourself, “What do I want to be memorable for?” Carmen says that many people aspire in being memorable but very few know with certainty what they want to be memorable for.
✓ Recognize that your brain adapts quickly. You can regain your attention and focus by offering new stimuli that will allow your brain to respond.
✓ Access anything inside your brain through self-awareness. Know when to stop and really be present.
✓ Make your message memorable through skillful repetition. Repetition is the mother of memory but you also have to be strategic in making sure that your message is steadily received with enthusiasm and energy.
✓ Amplify your brand message with the help of an effective tagline. Carmen says that it’s finding the essence of what you’re all about.
✓ Make your tagline easy to understand and easy to say. Clarify your message in a way that will still feed the curiosity of your audience.
✓ Grab a copy of Carmen’s book Impossible to Ignore and discover innovative techniques to create remarkable messages that will influence other people’s memory and decision.

Important Links:

About Carmen Simon

Carmen Simon is a cognitive neuroscientist, author and founder of Memzy, a company that uses brain science to help corporations create memorable messages. Carmen consults with major corporations on human memory and on decision-making processes and has developed a science-based method that helps people become memorable and drive a desired action. She has worked with AT&T, Google, Cisco, HP, Merck, McDonald’s, Xerox, and ESPN, among others. Her most recent book is called Impossible to Ignore, and has been selected as one of the top books on persuasion. Dr. Simon has two doctorate degrees: one in instructional technology and one in cognitive psychology. Dr. Simon also guest lectures at Stanford University and speaks frequently on the importance of using brain science to craft communication that is not only memorable but sparks action. After all, whats the use of memory if people don’t act on it?

Facebook Comments